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The last year the United States had fewer than 100 law enforcement officer deaths in one year was 1943. Driving, not using safety equipment, situational awareness and decision making are areas under an officer's control that can prevent deaths and serious injuries. The South Carolina Municipal Insurance Trust and the South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund will sponsor a Below 100 training on September 26, 2018, in Columbia to reduce these preventable deaths and serious injuries in the line of duty.

During 2017, law enforcement officers in the SCMIT pool had more than 350 injury claims with more than $2.8 million in anticipated costs. The SCMIRF pool saw more than 400 driving claims with more than $2 million in anticipated cost during that same time frame.

The Below 100 program stresses the five core tenets:

  1. Wear your belt.
  2. Wear your vest.
  3. Watch your speed.
  4. WIN – What's Important Now?
  5. Remember: Complacency Kills!

Law enforcement leadership should create a culture of safety throughout their departments that becomes ingrained in personnel. The tenets should become the norm and staff should be held accountable if they do not follow the core tenets.

One way to improve officer safety and protect people is to reinforce the basics of safe operations of emergency vehicles. Below are a few vehicle operations training program tips that can be used for roll call, remedial or individual officer training.

  • Conduct a pre-shift inspection: tire pressure and tread wear, fluids, lights, emergency equipment, clean windows, and properly set mirrors and seat. Be aware of your vehicle's blind spots.
  • Drive defensively by recognizing hazards, understanding how to prevent the hazard from becoming a collision, and choosing the safest driving maneuver to prevent a collision.  
  • Avoid distracted driving. Beware of manual, visual and cognitive distractions.    
  • Avoid fatigued and impaired driving. Read the label on your prescriptions and consult with a pharmacist or physician before operating a vehicle. Follow your local policy and notify your supervisor when taking certain prescription medications. There is zero tolerance for illegal substances.
  • Back in to parking spaces when tactically acceptable. Backing in upon arrival, especially in parking lots will greatly reduce vehicle collisions. Park in a position to avoid backing up when leaving. Just remember, tactics first.  
  • Position your hands at 8:00 and 4:00or 9:00 and 3:00 for better control. This will also reduce airbag injuries during a collision.  
  • Always wear your seatbelt. Conduct training on ways to exit your vehicle quickly and draw your duty weapon from a seat belted position.  
  • Operate your vehicle within appropriate speed limits for the road and weather conditions present with the due regard to the safety of others. Avoid the fatal four driving behaviors: speeding, right of way violations, driving left of center and following too closely. 
  • Night time driving reduces visibility; slow down. Don't overdrive your headlights.
  • Use back-up cameras or sensors to reduce backing collisions.  
  • Tactically position your vehicle out of the travel portion of the roadway on traffic stops. Use all emergency and hazard lights and remember to wear your retro reflective vest for increased visibility when appropriate for the job task.     
  • Secure items inside the vehicle. Unsecured items can become a projectile and injure occupants.  
  • Conduct annual vehicle operation training on policy and vehicle operations. Risk Management Services recommends officers drive a road course annually.
  • Follow your department's pursuit policy.

Below 100 training registration will begin on August 13. For more information on officer safety training programs, contact Todd Williams, public safety loss control consultant at twilliams@masc.sc or 803.354.4764.